Legislative Update

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Arizona Capitol Times reporter Jim Small joins us with the latest news from the Capitol.

Ted Simons:
Hello and welcome to Horizon, I'm Ted Simons. State lawmakers passed a current year budget fix. Now they're working on next year's nearly $2 billion budget shortfall. Here to tell us what's going on is Jim Small, reporter for "The Arizona Capitol Times." Jim thanks for joining us. Good to see you. What's going on with that budget?

Jim Small:
Not a whole lot right now. Last Thursday lawmakers passed a budget fix for the current year, solved the $1.2 billion budget deficit. Governor signed it on Friday. Since then hasn't been a whole lot of activity as far as negotiations go. republican leaders I spoke with today said they were going to take afternoon and meet with their caucus members, try to figure out where other republicans wanted to go for the next fiscal year, how much budget cuts they were looking at, what kind of fund sweeps or other options may be on the table. It's kind of frustrated some of the Democrats I talked to; we were doing a lot of work on the '09 budget. We got some agreements in place, we were making strides. And now we kind of hit the brakes. And they're kind of sitting in a holding pattern waiting to go find out what's going to happen. And Republicans say as soon as they talk to their members they'll come back to the Democrats and hopefully get negotiations going again with the governor.

Ted Simons:
It seems as though with this kind of a shortfall projected it could really get to be knock down drag out time. Are you sensing that around the capitol?

Jin Small:
I think there's definitely an air of an expectation for a long fight on this. a lot of people when they were doing the original plan was to do two years together, current year and next year's budget together. Everyone said they're intertwined. It's really difficult to split them apart. One of the added benefits was the clock was ticking on the current year. You had to get that done as quickly as possible, which meant they had to get next year's done as quickly as possible. That would have resulted in a shorter legislative session. Because once the budget was done, that's the major work. It's going to be pretty tough to keep lawmakers there for too much longer. Now with them having split this apart, there's really -- I mean, June 30th is now the deadline for them to get a budget done for the '09-year. There's a number of people down there who are very pessimistic. We're going to be here till the end of June now so cancel any vacations, don't get your campaign up and running until July.

Ted Simons:
The dust has settled I guess a bit on the '08 fix. who's walking around as a winner and who's walking around as a loser?

Jim Small:
The general consensus seems to be the Democrats got the better end of the deal for the '08 budget although both sides certainly got things they were looking for. Republicans got more than $300 million in cuts, $200 million of which were actually permanent cuts and are going to continue on into '09 and '10. But the Democrats are able to get a large portion of the rainy day fund to be used for the year, stave off some of the cuts. And they're still in -- there's still an agreement in place for '09 or maybe not agreement but understanding that there needs to be some kind of capital finance for school construction. Wasn't in the '08 budget which republicans are touting as a victory saying we didn't need to bond for this, issue bonds and borrow money nor problem. But it put it off for a couple months until they have to deal with it for the next fiscal year.

Ted Simons:
Tomorrow night program we'll talk about Representative Pearce and his anti-western lessons bill. Give us a quick overview.

Jim Small:
The issue here basically is a program down in Tucson Unified School District where they teach some ethnic studies courses. And the courses are very much pro-Hispanic, teaching the Laraza curriculum. And there are a number of people, especially among republicans who are put off by that. They see it as being anti-American. They teach that Americans are just invading land that is rightfully that of Mexican and of Hispanic people. and so what Representative Pearce is doing is trying to put an end to that and saying, if you guys teach these classes you're not going to get state funding for certain programs and trying to take it away. He also went another step further and would have outlawed clubs that were on campuses both in high school and in colleges and universities that were race-based as far as their entrance. There's some talk that that might disappear now, some unintended consequences. it didn't necessarily go after just the groups they was going after. That's such a broad thing. It goes after Jewish student organizations, African-American student organizations, you know, and not just the people that he views as radical Hispanics.

Ted Simons:
All right and again we'll talk about that tomorrow and have Representative Pearce on the program tomorrow night. Real quickly, gay marriage ban. Apparently it's back, huh?

Jim Small:
It's back. It went through floor debate in the house yesterday, it went through committee hearing earlier in the week -- today was supposed to be voted on the floor but there were a number of Republicans absent and I think leadership looked around the room and counted heads and decided not to do it. Remains to be seen if it will be heard tomorrow or maybe sometime next week.

Ted Simons:
We'll keep an eye on that one. Jim, thanks for joining us as always.

Jim Small:
Thank you, Ted.

Jim Small:Arizona Capitol Times;

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